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In today’s class, we will be talking about agricultural extension. Enjoy the class!
Agricultural extension is the process, system or service which assists farmers or farm people through educational procedures in improving farming methods and techniques. In other words, Agricultural extension is the process whereby the beneficial products of research are taken to the farmers and the problems of farmers taken to research institutions for a solution.
Agricultural extension is an informal out-of-school voluntary agricultural education program that involves the spread out dissemination of information on improvement in agriculture from researchers to farmers.
Objectives of agricultural extension
- To educate farmers and enable them to abandon less productive traditional ways of farming for improved and scientific farming techniques
- To help improve the standard of living of the rural dwellers
- To help identify the proper marketing channel
- To help farmers access and supervise agricultural loans
- To link farmers with research institutes
- To help accelerate the development of the rural area.
Principles of agricultural extension
- Extension education should start where the people are
- Gain confidence in your audience
- Work together with or involve the farmers in creating a programme
- Extension programmes should meet the need of the participant
- Programmes must undergo continuous evaluation
- Programmes should be flexible
Target groups of extension agents include and is not restricted to Commercial farmers, Community development associations, Farmers’ cooperative societies, Fishermen, Bee hivers etc.
Roles or functions of agricultural extension
- It encourages farmers to increase their production of food crops, cash crops and livestock.
- It teaches improved practices to farmers in the cultivation, rearing and processing of crops and livestock.
- It helps to collect and collate basic information relating to rural programmes.
- It acts as an intermediary between farmers and research institutes.
- It helps to supervise the beneficiaries of agricultural loans.
- It helps to change people attitude towards their problems.
- It helps to raise the standard of living of the farmers
- It helps to identify proper marketing channels for the farmers to sell their products.
- It enables extension to give necessary assistance to foreign experts visiting states on the invitation of the government in order to carry out various feasibility studies in various fields of agriculture.
- It assists in supervising and evaluating agricultural development programmes.
Problems facing agricultural extension
- Farm or agricultural inputs are inadequate and often get to the users(farmers) very late.
- The subject matter specialist(agricultural extension officers) are often not properly involved.
- Inadequate transport facilities for extension staff.
- Extension agents are not sufficiently motivated.
- The supervision of the farmers by the extension agents is weak or poor.
- Information to farmers is usually delayed and distorted due to poor training of the extension agents.
- Many agents are ignorant of the tradition and customs of their target communities and often run afoul of their system making it difficult for them to receive an audience.
- Very few extension workers are available to work with too many farmers.
- Poor facilities for extension communication which limits the scope and efficiency of coverage
- Target farmers are largely illiterate and find it difficult to follow instructions.
- Poor or inadequate monitoring of the activities or performance of the extension agents.
Methods used in dissemination new ideas and techniques to farmers are grouped into three classes:
- Mass media method
- Individual method
- Group method
Mass media method:
This method is used to create awareness and interest in the new ideas and techniques among the majority of the people. In other words, this method enables many people to know about the new innovation. This method involves the use of publications, leaflets, posters, agricultural shows and exhibitions, cinema vans, Newspaper, radio and television, Newsletter, Circular, News Bulletins, Pamphlets, film shows, etc.
Advantages of mass method
- A larger audience can be reached
- Does not necessarily require the presence of an agent
- It eliminates stress
- It is not time-consuming
- Print media information last long and can serve as a point of reference
Disadvantages of mass method
- It is very expensive to operate
- The language barrier might hinder effective communication
- Illiterate farmers might not benefit from this method
- No effective feedback mechanism is put in place
- Poor farmers may not get the information since they do not own radios or television set
- Technological backwardness (no electricity) and bad roads can disallow information from reaching some people.
This involves direct contact between individual farmers and the extension worker. More attention is given to the farmer by the extension worker. Examples of the individual method include visits by the extension worker to the home and farm office of the farmer, telephone calls, personal letters and text messages.
Advantages of individual method
- More attention is given to farmers than any other method
- Dissemination of information is more effective
- It gives room for feedback
- Farmers have the opportunity to ask questions
- It makes adoption of innovation more effective
Disadvantages of individual method
- It is time-consuming
- It is very tedious
- It is expensive
- It does not give room for reaching a larger group of farmers
- There may not be enough workers to carry out this task effectively
This method enables the extension worker to teach the farmers in the group. Example of group methods includes group discussion, lectures, workshops method demonstration, result demonstration, farm works and excursion, Field trips, symposia, short courses, debates, General meetings, Committee meetings etc.
Advantages of group method
- It enables extension workers to reach out to a larger group of farmers at a time.
- It saves time
- It is less tedious
- It saves money
- Adoption by one can enhance adoption by the others
Disadvantages of group method
- Some farmers might easily discourage others from adopting the innovation.
- Farmers may not be regular at meetings
- There may not be enough workers to carry out this task effectively
Agricultural extension office/worker/agent
This is a person who is involved in the dissemination of new ideas and techniques from the research institutes to the farmers. He acts as an intermediary between researchers and the farmers.
Qualities of extension officer/worker
- Extension officer must be knowledgeable in his field of operation to enable him to teach farmers.
- He must understand the local language of the local community he operates because most farmers are illiterate.
- He must have an interest in what he is doing.
- He must not easily get annoyed because he will come across various categories of farmers that may ask him foolish questions.
- He must be persuasive in his operation i.e. he should have the ability to always encourage the farmers when introducing new innovations to them.
- He must have enough materials and financial resources to carry out his duties.
Functions or roles of an extension officer/worker/agent
- He consults and reflects on rural or agricultural development projects
- He plans and executes farming educational programmes.
- He organizes and supervises farmers group i.e. meeting, cooperatives and their workers’ meetings.
- He liaises with other agencies that may have an influence on the rural environment and the farmers.
- He helps to improve the outlook of farmers towards the problems or difficulties.
- He acts as a connecting link between the researchers and the farming communities.
- He teaches improved farming practices to farmers.
- He evaluates agricultural extension programmes and projects.
- He supervises the utilization of agricultural loans.
- He conducts or organizes training for farmers.
Problems of agricultural extension officer/worker/agent
- High level of illiteracy among farmers may affect the rate of adopting new farming techniques.
- Absence of credit facilities to farmers make them uninterested and prevent the implantation of accepted innovation.
- The insufficient motivation of the extension workers by way of better remunerations for his effort tends to retard his work.
- Extension workers do not have adequate resources such as money to travel or enough materials to supply his or her target farmers.
- Unfavourable attitudes of rural farmers towards government programmes tend to make extension work a bit difficult.
- Inadequacy of well-trained extension staff makes the extension worker have a wider area and more farmers than he can cope with.
- Language barriers lead to improper dissemination of new innovation by the extension worker.
- Uncoordinated efforts by government agencies may lead to confusion and rejection by farmers.
Diffusion is a process of spreading new ideas and information from the research station to reach farm families. Diffusion is the movement of new ideas and information from the area of higher concentration to an area of lower concentration through a medium (extension Officer) and extension method. New ideas and techniques are known as innovations.
Five steps or stages of diffusion process
Adoption of new innovation
It involves the acceptance and practice of new or modern farming technique introduce in the rural area. This is largely dependent on:
- Level of education
- Attitude of farmers
- Financial status of farmers
- Size of farm
- Presence of extension workers
- Result of a demonstration plot
Categories of farmers based on the adoption of innovation
- Innovators: they introduce new ideas of farming seen in other places to their dwelling. Due to inexperience or error, they might suffer losses and can be encouraged by giving expert advice, granting credit facilities, providing and subsidizing farm inputs, granting insurance cover, providing a market for the sale of produce.
- Early adopters: They are less quick to accepting innovations which might be largely due to some of the aforementioned factors. If the percentage of these set is as low as 10% then such innovation has not been uniformly accepted maybe due to hitch during a demonstration or the idea is too complex to understand.
- Late adopters: this group are very conservative and need assurance before accepting new innovations. They usually have the largest percentage in a group.
- Never adopters: they are extremely conservative and will not accept new innovation no matter the persuasion. If their percentage is usually low
In our next class, we will be talking about Fish Farming. We hope you enjoyed the class.
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